Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NYT untimed (pannonica) 
LAT 4:16 (Gareth) 
Tausig untimed 
CS 5:16 (Dave) 

Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 8/28/13 • Wed • Agard • 8 28 13 • solution

Apologies in advance for a perfunctory write-up of a fine crossword. I’m on last-minute fill-in (so to speak) duty for Amy, and am rather sleepy.

First of all, considering all of the news regarding the 50th anniversary of the momentous civil rights march in Washington, DC, I was somewhat surprised that today’s puzzle hadn’t anticipated the occasion. Instead it’s yet another baseball-themed offering, one that involves BABE | RUTH1a [With 67-Across, man whose 1930 salary was $80,000]. Since the same fellow played a prominent role in a recent CRooked crossword by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, which I also covered, it was doubly tiring.

None of these factors should be taken as criticisms of the puzzle inandofitself—which is quite impressive with the amount of theme content and accessory fill—but the missed opportunity nevertheless feels a bit of a letdown, which is more of an editorial gripe.

The other elements of the theme are three fortuitous 15-letter spanners:

  • 17a. [Nickname for 1-/67-Across] THE SULTAN OF SWAT.
  • 38a. [Man whose 1930 salary was $75,000] PRESIDENT HOOVER.
  • 60a. [Quote from 1-/67-Across on why he outearned 38-Across] “I HAD A BETTER YEAR

It was the onset of the Great Depression, after all. And nowadays the difference between the salaries of top professional athletes and the US president dwarfs that quaint figure.

Good long material in HEARKENS, SERENITY, MAKE UP TO, with ENLISTED bringing up the rear. 

  • 31d [Rathskeller order] STEIN, 49a [Newcastle Brown and others] ALES. See also 3d [“Beauty is in the eye of the __ holder”: Kinky Friedman] BEER. All three are crossword regulars, and not the only ones in the grid.
  • 46d [Chestnut-colored flying mammal] RED BAT, which I reckon seems kind of random to the average solver (and incomplete to me). There are a few species of the vespetilionid Lasiurus with variations of this common name in North America: Eastern red bat, Western red bat, desert red bat, cinnamon red bat, big red bat, you get the idea.
  • Clever clues: 28d [Units of brilliance?] A-TEAMS; 63a [It lights up when it’s excited] ARGON; 23d [Gave up by giving up control] PUNTED; 4d [Bluegrass duo?] ESSES.
  • Lst. fav. abbrev.: 55d [Lender’s offering] MTGE, but at least I didn’t have to figure out how to shorten “bagel.” Most obscure answer: 58d [Mathematical physicist Peter who pioneered in knot theory] TAIT.
  • Geography lesson: 29d [Its capital is Nuku’alofa] TONGA. Foreign language lesson: 39d [Vicina della Francia] ITALIAvicina means “neighbor.”

Good puzzle, but a change-up for this unsuspecting solver.

Updated Wednesday morning…

Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

It’s unusual to see a letter addition theme on a Wednesday in the LA Times, but I understand why the decision was made with this particular case. Once I got the first theme answer, I went through all the long answers figuring two out with only a few crossing answers; DEBASEMETAL took a little more effort to puzzle out. Each answer has DE added to base phrases, in each case forming a (very rough) synonym, allowing all four answers to be clued as [Put down ___?] The neatness of this was very satisfying for me! For completeness’ sake the theme answers are:

  • 17a, [Put down toddlers?], DECRYBABIES. BABIES = toddlers?
  • 28a, [Put down formal education?], DEGRADESCHOOL
  • 48a, [Put down thoroughfares?], DEMEANSTEETS
  • 64a, [Put down a rock genre?], DEBASEMETAL

There’s not a lot going on outside of the excellent theme, it’s a very conservatively filled grid. That’s all very well, but it means I don’t have a lot to discuss! Mr. Harrison even managed to resist dropping 3 Q’s in each 4×3 corner, meaning nothing clunks there either. I personally know ASTA only from crosswords; it seems some people also only know SMEE from crosswords, but Peter Pan (or at least the Disney film version and its book derivative) were a big part of my early childhood so I find that position hard to relate to.

I can’t really find much more to discuss here: 4 Stars

Updated Wednesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Middleman” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I enjoyed this puzzle from constructor Donna S. Levin in which four phrases have the letters MAN smack dab in the middle:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 08/28/13

  • Generally abbreviated when found in crosswords, the old chestnut [Charlemagne’s domain] gets some more respectable treatment spelled out as HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.
  • [Pen name of etiquette doyenne Judith Martin] was MISS MANNERS – don’t you just love the title “etiquette doyenne”? Is there a degree in this?
  • [Armored vehicle named for a Union general] was a SHERMAN TANK – I guess that’s the ultimate compliment bestowed on military personnel, to whit when they name a 66,800 pound armored vehicle with a rotating gun turret after you.
  • A movie I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing, [Jennifer Lopez/Ralph Fiennes flick] clues MAID IN MANHATTAN – This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this 15-letter entry in a grid, I suppose its length and friendly vowel/consonant placement makes it very crossword-friendly. When Hollywood execs name movies, I wonder if this is one of their marketing considerations? If not, it should be!

Clever idea for a theme, and a nice execution. The mathematician in me really appreciated the fact that the operative word was in the exact middle, and not just somewhere between the beginning and end of these phrases. I balked a bit at [Rambler maker of yore] for NASH; without checking online, I was thinking of SUVs or trucks and the “Ram” part made me think of Dodge. Is Nash a person or company here? There’s Ogden Nash and John Forbes Nash, but I don’t think either of them were in the car manufacturing field. I’ll have to award my FAVE entry to the fully-spelled-out (see HRE above) ET CETERA for [“Yada yada yada”]. Love seeing what these common abbreviations really stand for. Second place goes to the juxtaposition of President OBAMA with Sasha Baron COHEN – do you think the latter may play the former in an upcoming biopic? And finally, I also enjoyed seeing DIET with the unusual clue, [Japan’s legislature]. I wonder if all their legislators are svelte?

Ben Tausig’s Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, “Land Lines”

Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword solution, 8 28 13 “Land Lines”

There are lots of specific terms for various expanses of land, based on their shape, topography, and vegetation. Five such terms double as non-land words used in phrases:

  • 17a. [Staunch opponent of Burning Man’s setting?], PLAYA HATER.
  • 25a. [April payment in the place where crabs and herons live?], FLAT TAX. Usually it’s flats with an S.
  • 35a. [Book about how it would be great to stop being nomadic and farm the prairie?], PLAIN TEXT. The (Great) Plains in America’s heartland usually take an S too.
  • 52a. [Farmer who took a wife, in a song?], DELL GUY.
  • 61a. [“Narrow land is grand” and “So what if it juts?”?], SPIT RHYMES.

Fave five:

  • 1a. [What bread is stuffed with?], CARBS. Tasty, tasty carbs.
  • 1d. [Technology that I guess has outed me as a robot because I always get it wrong], CAPTCHA.
  • 5d. [Herb collection for baking?], STASH. Drug humor, not bread with rosemary. Mmm, bread.
  • 49d. [GOP bogeymen], ELITES. Yes. Because everyone knows that most elected Republicans never went to college and certainly have no Ivy League education or highly placed allies.
  • 55d. [Droppings from a butt], ASHES. Cigarette butt.

3.5 stars from me. I like the corner 7s and there are some fun clues, but the theme did not delight me.

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17 Responses to Wednesday, August 28, 2013

  1. Ben Zimmer says:

    Interesting to note that there’s no contemporary evidence of Babe Ruth saying this famous zinger in 1930 — it only began to be attributed to him in 1947-48. See the entry on Barry Popik’s site and follow-up research by Garson O’Toole.

  2. Bencoe says:

    Other than TAIT, which was new to me, the NYT was really boring…although I have to admit I enjoyed HEARKENS.

  3. Daniel says:

    The witty cluing and fantastic long fill in the NYT made me forgive even RATA and the baseball theme (I can’t stand baseball). Loved every minute of solving this puzzle!

  4. Jeffrey K says:

    I read the clue for one across and knew every theme answer instantly. First time that happened. Fun puzzle.

  5. pannonica says:

    So I’m going to be predictable and question a mammal clue in the Tausig. It (sort of) isn’t technically wrong and is defensible, but nevertheless strikes me as curious. I wonder about its origin. Bear with my didacticism.

    53a [Slow Sri Lankan lemur] for LORIS.

    Okay, first let me dispense with the big error: that lorises are lemurs. That’s an unqualified “no.” Moving through the cladogram of primate relationships, the group that is comprised of monkeys, apes and tarsiers (Haplorhini) is differentiated from the one that includes lemurs and lorises (Strepsirrhini), which are sister taxa.

    Now the “interesting” part. There are two genera of lorises, Loris (2 extant species) and Nycticebus (8 extant species). The former are known as “slender lorises” and live in parts of India and Sri Lanka; the latter are called “slow lorises” and inhabit Southeast Asia. “Slow lorises,” as you might imagine, tend to move at what I’ll call a deliberate pace and aren’t, say, mentally inferior to their lanky-limbed cousins. Back to the “slender lorises,” the ones whose range includes Sri Lanka (remember the clue?). As I said, there are two species: the “gray slender loris,” Loris lydekkerianus, and the “red slender loris,” Loris tardigradus. Both have populations on Sri Lanka, though L. tardigradus is restricted to the island.

    Now here’s the thing (and I’m relying on Wikipedia here because my knowledge doesn’t extend to this level of detail and haven’t had a chance to consult with former colleagues): apparently L. tardigradus is described as moving notably more rapidly than L. lydekkerianus. If this seems to be counterintuitive based on the name “tardigradus” you shouldn’t be particularly concerned, because the rules guiding taxonomic nomenclature are very specific, are often strict, and take into account lots of history.

    So. Back to the clue. [Slow Sri Lankan lemur]. Again, for the moment dismissing the lemur gaffe, is the “slow” (1) referencing the tardigradus species name and taking it literally, (2) acknowledging that L. lydekkerianus is supposedly the slower species, or (3) mistakenly identifying the other loris, the one whose common name includes “slow” but which is not found on Sri Lanka?

    However, if I were pressured to make a decision, I’d reintroduce the “lemur” bit and conclude that it’s all a bit of sloppiness, probably borne of haste, and that Nycticebus (aka “slow loris”) was the referenced animal.

    If you’ve read through this far, thanks for indulging my therapeutic walk-through. At least it helped me.

  6. Brucenm says:

    I cannot gain access to the NYT website, and hence to the puzzle. I get the message “Safari cannot find the server” I’ve tried other back door ways of getting there, but without success. I’m wondering (perhaps assuming) that the site has been hacked again, but other people seem to be getting the puzzle. I’m wondering if anyone else if having the same problem.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bruce: There’s a backup link Deb cobbled together with Neville’s assistance:

    • Brucenm says:

      Thanks Amy; it worked and thanks to Deb and Neville. To me it’s sheer sorcery how people can figure out how to do something like creating a “back-up link.” For me it would be like someone telling me to build a time-travel machine.

    • Papa John says:

      I understand that he NYT site was hacked and disrupted crossword downloads for some and not others. I am still unable to log on to the NYT site, although I can access the home page. One must be logged on in order to get the puzzle in Adross Lite. I am also unable to access the Contact Us page. It’s frustrating. I don tknow what to do except keep trying to log on.

      I didn’t come here for help because I hadn’t done the puzzle, yet. Hopefully, things will be back to normal, tomorrow. If not, I’ll be coming here for the puzzle, so I hope Deb and Neville put up another link.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @pannonica: Perhaps I should have been more rigorous when I test-solved the Ink Well puzzle. The dictionary tells me that the loris is tailless and has a picture of a lemur with a long, lush striped tail. So while I don’t have separate places in my brain for the loris and the lemur, they are in fact markedly different creatures. And now I know.

  9. Dan M says:

    I knew the three long theme answers right away, so not much fun. But I guess that’s not a reason to be critical, and the fill was pretty good. It just felt like a day without a puzzle for me.

    • HH says:

      Sorta like how I feel about most crosswords — Once I grasp the gistof the theme, the rest is like the last 50 pages of “The Lost Symbol”.

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